Eleni Kamma


Oh, for some more Amusement!


Oh, for some more Amusement!
19.04.2015 > 13.06.2015

In this solo exhibition, Eleni Kamma unveils her new film project Yar bana bir eğlence: Notes on Parrhesia — complemented by an episodic landscape of video clips — and autonomous installations spread out over four exhibition spaces. The presentation was conceived as an experience-focused environment in which individual viewers can move freely to create their own narrative paths.

The work It takes courage and breath to speak up features autonomously as a possible prologue of the exhibition, encouraging a thoughtful approach from the start. In this video work, Kamma reflects on the Greek ‘parrhesia’ or freedom of speech, a notion that stands for the expression of opinion while also alluding to an obligation to speak out in service of the greater good — in spite of the vulnerability that the individual may experience as a consequence. The choreographic movement of the camera captures three performers who occupy a theatre space representing a typical public agora. They come together as a community and together summon the courage to voice their thoughts freely, ultimately disbanding to forge their own paths.

‘Yar bana bir eğlence’ is the customary opening sentence in traditional Turkish shadow theatre, Karagöz. The central theme in this form of street theatre, which remained immensely popular until the late 18th Century, is the amusing interaction between the two protagonists. Hacivat embodies the better-educated well-to-do in society, while Karagöz is the outspoken representative of the man on the street, venting his opinions through ‘parrhesia’. This projected image stokes the imagination, but it is the voice of the narrator that assumes the more dominant role. The narrator utters what the people dare not speak but still wish to hear. He airs their grievances regarding social injustices. He freely criticises from the shadows of local politics, commanding an almost preposterous level of expressive freedom in a totalitarian regime such as the Ottoman Empire. During her residency in Istanbul in 2013, Kamma witnessed the civil protests in Taksim Gezi Park. It struck her that a clear link could be made between the way in which the public space is currently taking a new shape and how it did so in the Ottoman era: through ‘parrhesia’ and political satire, public participation and humour. A keenly relevant observation of current affairs that she has translated into her most recent work.

The work Play it, Emin. Walking along the Russian Monument at Ayastefanos, presented as a diptych of side-by-side images, takes the destruction of the Russian memorial in Ayastefanos on 14 November 1914 as its point of departure. Although the documentary footage of this symbolic nationalistic action is now lost, the event itself is viewed as marking the genesis of Turkish film. The destruction of the Russian monument heralded the beginning of WWI and the end of the Ottoman Empire. Kamma invited Karagöz master Emin Senyer to depict this destructive act in a shadow play. He based his interpretation on existing documentary material: three photos and a description of the event from two different sources, the personal memoires of the lieutenant involved and newspaper reports. Kamma made recordings in the district of Florya, where the destruction of the monument took place 100 years ago. The images are juxtaposed with Emin Senyer’s creative process and evocative performance of the historical event on the other screen.

In the upper spaces of Netwerk’s Pakhuis, a selection of video clips explore the theme of ‘parrhesia’ that is so prominent in Kamma’s most recent film work. The scenography, fragmented though unforced, plays with form with a power analogous to that of the spoken word. This is very apparent in the rhetorical work Note II: Introduction, and equally powerful in the enigmatic installation Yar bana bir eğlence: Notes on Parrhesia. Now, in the rapidly evolving information age, the transition from oral to written communication seems to occupy a minor footnote in cosmopolitan history. The voice of Karagöz was silenced in the 19th Century when political satire was made forbidden. The social power of oral theatre was lost due to the influence of Western theatre culture and the introduction of the written word. Kamma’s installations offer the viewer a free space in which to reflect upon the quiet passing of the old medium that was brought to life by the voice of the people, and holds these thoughts up in comparison with our now excessively-monitored urban and digital public spaces.

Visual artist Eleni Kamma (°1973 Athens) works in Brussels and Maastricht and is currently enjoying the springtime of a promising international career. She studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London and the Jan Van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. In recent years, she has been an artist in residence at Ateliers RAVI (Liege), NiMAC (Nicosia), PiST/// (Istanbul), Duende (Rotterdam), Villa Romana (Firenze) and IASPIS (Stockholm). In 2010 she took part in the residence programme of WIELS in Brussels. Past solo exhibitions include Yar bana bir eğlence (Oh, for some Amusement!), Nadja Vilenne, Liege (2014); P like Politics like Parrots, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki (2013); From Bank to Bank on a Gradual Slope, Villa Romana, Florence (2012); Enlever et Entretenir II, Wiels Project Room, Brussels (2011) and Enlever et Entretenir I, HEDAH, Maastricht (2010). Her work has recently been shown in group exhibitions such as Multiplicities, Art Seen – Contemporary Art Projects & Editions, Nicosia, Cyprus (2015), 5 × 3: Eleni Kamma, Alien Oosting, Thyra Schmidt, Kunstraum Dusseldorf (2014) and Treasure Island, NiMAC, Nicosia (2014). Curator Katerina Gregos selected her work for inclusion in the fifth Thessaloniki Bienniale of Contemporary Art – Between the Pessimism of the Intellect and the Optimism of the Will – which opens in June 2015. Kamma received the Lissone Award in 2007 and the NAK Young Art Prize (Neuer Aachener Kunstverein) in 2012. She is a member of the artist platform Jubilee, Brussels.

The short film Yar bana bir eğlence: Seven Notes on Parrhesia is produced by Jubilee and made with the support of the Flemish Audiovisual Fund, the Mondriaan Fund, NiMAC (Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre), PiST/// Istanbul and Theater aan het Vrijthof in Maastricht. The film is currently in post-production and will be premièred in Maastricht in October 2015.

The scenography of the exhibition was designed by the artist in collaboration with the architect Asli Cecik.

Eleni Kamma